Monday, June 27, 2016

Well, hello there!  Long time no see.  Yes, I am still alive and well, even though I can't say the same for our internet connection, which is sickly at best.  I am going to try to get 1 photo in this post, but even just 1 may be asking too much.

We have been busy here in South Englishtown.  Just finishing up a few odds and ends on our new addition before we start using it.  Things like the ceiling fan, handles on the cupboards and drawers, overhead lights.  Just details, really.

The long awaited rainy season has started.  So far in June we have had almost 10 inches and could use another 5 or 6 to get back on track.  The good news is that our vats are full and all the plants are thriving.  Today was supposed to be mostly sunny and dry, so we scheduled some repair work on the caretaker's cabana.  We need to replace the old siding, which has some termite damage and rot, with new pressure-treated siding.  And since it was supposed to be sunny, I wanted to bake some bread using our new(ish) small electric oven.

I love this new oven.  It can broil, toast, roast, bake, keep warm, and slow cook.  It can get up to 500F, which is great for pizza and some bread.  It has 2 drawbacks:  1) fancy electronics that are sensitive to even minor power fluctuations and 2) it uses a lot of electricity.  So I tend to bake bread, roast veggies, or cook casseroles on sunny days.  Not yet, but someday soon, the oven will have its very own circuit.  For now, it is on a shared circuit which can cause some issues when the water pump or one of the 2 fridges comes on.  Standard procedure for the time being is to turn off the 2 fridges and refrain from using water while the oven is in use.

Our supposed sunny day turned cloudy and stormy for a couple of hours.  Work on the siding proceeded anyway.  But the arrival of the clouds meant that the power tools had to plug into our solar power rather than the smaller solar power of the caretaker cabana.  We have plenty of power with our wonderful battery bank and south facing solar panels, so we were good to go.  The crew was able to get all the siding replaced on the east side except for the 2 pieces just under the eaves.  They can do that right away tomorrow.  What I hadn't fully appreciated, though, was that the power tools were running off the same circuit that the oven was on.  Below is the saga of bread baking in Belize presented in 10 Easy Steps.  Spoiler Alert - it does have a happy ending.

One and 1/3 loaves.  The missing portion disappeared in no time.  It would have been crustier if I could have kept the oven going.

How to Bake Bread in Belize – the special  "Fume and Curse" Belize Steps are in italics.

1.    Proof the yeast – essential in Belize
2.    Whisk the eggs
·      Crack three eggs into a small bowl
·      Fume and curse because egg #2 is dicey and contaminated egg #1.
·      Wash the bowl out and start over with modified process
·      Crack one egg into a measuring cup.  If it looks good, transfer it to the little mixing bowl.  Repeat 2 more times and whisk.
3.    Measure out the flour in a dry mixing bowl
·      Fume and curse because there are weevils in the flour
·      Sieve the flour to get the weevils out
·      Sieve again to get ALL the weevils out
·      Find the new bag of flour because you need 4 more cups
·      Fume and curse because the new bag of flour is masa not wheat flour
·      Retrieve the little bit of pastry flour from the back of the fridge and find the shaker of flour so that you have enough wheat flour to proceed.
4.    Mix the ingredients
·      Fume and curse because the yeast, with its 2-inch high head of foam, might have over-proofed while you were dealing with unanticipated complications (see above).  Use it anyway.
·      Knead the wet dough, adding in more flour until it reaches the desired stiffness and elasticity.
5.    Clean up
·      Fume and curse as you wash up the mess of the dicey eggs, weevil bodies, and gummy flour from the sink.
6.    Form the risen dough into longish free-form loaves.  Set aside to rise again.
7.    Preheat the oven
·      Fume and curse because you must unplug the little fridge and turn off the big fridge so you can turn on the little oven without overloading the circuit before you set the oven to 400F and start the preheat
8.    Bake the loaves
·      Put the pan on the lower shelf when the oven reaches 400F
·      Fume and curse when the oven alarm starts at 10 minutes into the baking.  The power tools have created a surge in the circuit!
·      Fume and curse as you restart the oven after unplugging it and counting to 10.  Three times.
·      Fume and curse as you let the bread finish baking in the residual heat of the oven because you are sick of restarting the oven.
9.     Slice and taste test
·      Hold your breath as you slice into the still-warm loaf.  Yes; it is done!  Slather on some butter and give it try.  Success; it is pretty damn tasty! 
10.  Fume and curse as you realize that you will never be able to repeat this exact recipe.